“Consumers want sustainability, but they need to start with themselves”

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“Consumers expect the companies to be more environmentally conscious, but it does not stop there, they want them to clearly define to what extent something was created in a green way. We need to understand that nothing so far has been eco-friendly 100 percent, maybe the end product in its final phase is, but the processes behind its creation are still not”, explained Gordan Turković, CEO and co-owner of CTA komunikacije on 3rd of June at the Greencajt festival in Rougemarin Park.

In the panel discussion Sustainability in communicating: What consumers want, at the largest festival in the region, Gordan joined Igor Mladenović, Imago Ogilvy agency’s CEO, and Luka Duboković, BBDO Zagreb’s CEO, while the panel discussion was moderated by Sanja Petek Mujačić, CEO of Hauska & Partner agency.

With the consumers becoming ever more sceptical towards brand sustainability claims, honesty, transparency, commitment, and urgency of action become key values that allow brands to build credibility with their consumers. Must the brands produce in a different manner to attain sustainability, do we live in times of green revolution, and how to advertise sustainability were only some of the topics of the discussion.

The influence of younger generations is becoming ever more pronounced, so is greenwashing

As regards the change in consumer habits and expectations, the panellists agreed that it was the activism of the generation Z, in particular, that has led to a change in consumer habits in the sense of choosing more sustainable products and brands. However, some brands have found their way around this, so greenwashing is increasingly present as an example of “sustainable business on paper” with all its pitfalls.

Luka Duboković emphasized that about 75 percent of younger consumers are looking for sustainability and that they would pay about 10 percent more for a product if it was sustainably produced. However, consumers do not trust the companies claiming they are sustainable.

Igor Mladinović, when asked what else affects consumers’ trust in companies, believes that it is a closed circle. It is not difficult to convince a consumer of something, but the question is what exactly we convince him of and who is currently dealing with green future. According to him, those currently producing green are only looking at how to make money.

“From a marketing perspective, what a company does has to be accepted, and from a social point of view, the public must ask them to be better year after year and to change things for the better. Elon Musk was removed from S&P’s list of green companies the other day. According to their report, on the one hand, he promotes green energy, and on the other, there are deaths in his production facilities,” said Gordan Turković.

Sanja Petek Mujačić, Igor Mladinović, Luka Duboković, Gordan Turković

Do we know how to live in a sustainable manner?

It looks like everyone is ready for a change towards green production and creation, only when such a change comes from others, not from ourselves.

“Education should start from an early age, in order to understand how the system works and what is behind a product bought in a store,” Mladinović emphasized.

Turković concluded that “communication is only a part of the sustainability story, especially in the eco segment. Households must get used to changes, starting with waste sorting. We need to know why we want to turn to sustainability and then, as consumers, insist on it from producers as well.”

Washing trend in other spheres as well

“In our society, as well as in our profession, we have various examples of washing. In particular, the so-called genderwashing, which is something we must continue to work hard on, i.e, to protect each other. An example is when women come for a job interview, and at the end of the interview, they are asked if they have been planning to get pregnant. These are examples where a line should be drawn because after all the campaigns and public condemnations, such situations still happen. We are degrading as a society in this regard and before greenwashing, we must solve larger problems like genderwashing“, said the CEO of CTA komunikacije.

Finally, the speakers agreed that the responsibility lies with everyone – both consumers and companies and communicators.

The Greencajt festival, organized by HURA (Croatian Association of Communications Agencies), gathered over 60 foreign and domestic speakers from the field of sustainable development. It encourages green changes through various contents, from panel discussions to electric cars exhibition. At the event, a Green Prix is presented – a national award for the environment, in partnership with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, in cooperation with the Croatian Economy chamber.